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WHY do you hide?" Demetrio asked the prisoners.

"We're not hiding, Chief, we're hitting the trail."

"Where to?"

"To our own homes, in God's name, to Durango."

"Is this the road to Durango?"

"Peaceful people can't travel over the main road
nowadays, you know that, Chief."

"You're not peaceful people, you're deserters. Where
do you come from?" Demetrio said, eyeing them with
keen scrutiny.

The prisoners grew confused; they looked at each
other hesitatingly, unable to give a prompt answer.

"They're Carranzistas," one of the soldiers said.

"Carranzistas hell!" one of them said proudly. "I'd
rather be a pig."

"The truth is we're deserters," another said. "After the
defeat we deserted from General Villa's troops this side
of Celaya."

"General Villa defeated? Ha! Ha! That's a good joke."

The soldiers laughed. But Demetrio's brow was
wrinkled as though a black shadow had passed over his

"There ain't a son of a bitch on earth who can beat
General Villa!" said a bronzed veteran with a scar clear
across the face.

Without a change of expression, one of the deserters
stared persistently at him and said:

"I know who you are. When we took Torreon you
were with General Urbina. In Zacatecas you were with
General Natera and then you shifted to the Jalisco
troops. Am I lying?"
These words met with a sudden and definite effect.
The prisoners gave a detailed account of the tremendous
defeat of Villa at Celaya. Demetrio's men listened in
silence, stupefied.

Before resuming their march, they built a fire on which
to roast some bull meat. Anastasio Montanez, searching
for food among the huizache trees, descried the close-
cropped neck of Valderrama's horse in the distance
among the rocks.

"Hey! Come here, you fool, after all there ain't been
no gravy!" he shouted.

Whenever anything was said about shooting someone,
Valderrama, the romantic poet, would disappear for a
whole day.

Hearing Anastasio's voice, Valderrama was convinced
that the prisoners had been set at liberty. A few mo-
ments later, he was joined by Venancio and Demetrio.

"Heard the news?" Venancio asked gravely.


"It's very serious. A terrible mess! Villa was beaten
at Celaya by Obregon and Carranza is winning all
along the line! We're done for!"

Valderrama's gesture was disdainful and solemn as
an emperor's. "Villa? Obregon? Carranza? What's the
difference? I love the revolution like a volcano in erup-
tion; I love the volcano because it's a volcano, the revolu-
tion because it's the revolution! What do I care about
the stones left above or below after the cataclysm? What
are they to me?"

In the glare of the midday sun the reflection of a
white tequila bottle glittered on his forehead; and, jubi-
lant, he ran toward the bearer of such a marvelous gift.

"I like this crazy fool," Demetrio said with a smile.
"He says things sometimes that make you think."

They resumed their march; their uncertainty translated
into a lugubrious silence. Slowly, inevitably, the catastro-
phe must come; it was even now being realized. Villa
defeated was a fallen god; when gods cease to be
omnipotent, they are nothing.

Quail spoke. His words faithfully interpreted the gen-
eral opinion:

"What the hell, boys! Every spider's got to spin his
own web now!"

The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
General Fiction

Mexico - History - 1910-1946
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